Arucas Cathedral: a local icon
San Juan Bautista is one of the main churches on Gran Canaria. It is in a town called Arucas and it is also commonly referred to as Arucas Cathedral. This contemporary place of worship is one of the best examples of religious architecture in the archipelago.
The immensity of the church means that it has ended up being called a cathedral even though it does not actually have cathedral status. San Juan Bautista Church is a symbol for local people. The church and Nuestra Señora del Pino Basilica in Teror are two of the most frequented places of worship on the island.
If something stands out about San Juan Bautista Church, though, it is the Gothic Revival architecture. It is a fine example of stonework, and boasts large towers, pointed arches and a truly breathtaking façade. It has been declared a monument of cultural interest.
San Juan Bautista Church is not a cathedral
The reason why people commonly call this church a cathedral is because it is so large. It is majestic and grandiose and stands high above the rest of Arucas and, indeed, the surrounding area. In fact, you can see the main tower from well outside the town.
However, it is still just a local church. In order to have cathedral status, it would need to be the seat of the diocese and this honour belongs to Las Palmas Cathedral. However, this does not stop the church from decorating the streets with beautiful handmade flower and sawdust carpets to honour Saint John the Baptist (patron saint of Arucas) each year during Corpus Christi.
The origin of Arucas Church and how it was built
Way back in the 15th century, there was a chapel in honour of John the Baptist on the very spot where San Juan Bautista Church now stands. As the centuries went by and as Arucas itself grew, the chapel also changed and, by the 17th century, it was a Renaissance-style church with three naves.
It was demolished in the early 20th century and a new, larger church was built. Work building the new church began in 1909 under the supervision of architect Manuel Vega. The doors opened in 1917 although work continued until 1977, almost 70 years later. Work on the church came to an end on 24th June, Saint John’s day.
Arucas Cathedral architecture and style
If one thing stands out about Arucas Cathedral, it’s the impressive Gothic Revival style it was built in. The exterior is similar to other Gothic Revival buildings such as Barcelona Cathedral. It was built from black stone taken from the quarry in Arucas. The quarry is one of the best on Gran Canaria.
Local artisans set to work on each and every detail of the façade in order to make it very unique and special. The fact that there is a close link between Arucas and the stone industry makes the spectacular handcrafted stonework even more special. It is estimated that there were over one thousand employees at the quarry in Arucas when work on San Juan Bautista Church began.
In addition to the two towers on the main façade, there is a third, taller tower. This is the bell tower and it was built between 1962 and 1977 (although work began in 1930). It is the last piece that was added to the church.
Inside, a number of elements from the original church still remain. You will find a 16th century image of Jesus on the cross next to characteristic pointed arches and white walls. As in all good Gothic Revival buildings, the church also has a number of stained glass windows. Many of them were donated and some were even manufactured by the well-known French firm, Maumèjean Frères.
It is easy to spot Arucas Cathedral from far away. As you head towards the town, San Juan Bautista Church makes for a stark contrast with the colourful houses. It stands out in all its splendour in this green, northern part of Gran Canaria.
Arucas: a town of Canarian rum
San Juan Bautista Church is the main symbol of Arucas. The town has 35,000 inhabitants and it is in the north of Gran Canaria, not far at all from Las Palmas and about five kilometres from the coast. Another local icon is the famous Arehucas rum, the best-known rum on the Canary Islands. It is named after the place where it is made. The company is the oldest rum-maker in Europe. Sugar cane is grown in Arucas.
However, it is also worth going to Arucas to visit the old quarter, which has been declared a monument of cultural interest. You will find fine examples of local Canarian architecture there. Montaña de Arucas (Arucas Mountain) is the cherry on the cake. This 412-metre high old crater dominates the entire area and you can even see Teide mountain on Tenerife from there.
Are you thinking of visiting Gran Canaria? Find out about places to see and much, much more in our comprehensive guide to Gran Canaria.
Information of interest
Getting to San Juan Bautista Church:
- By car. Take the GC-3 motorway from Las Palmas or GC-20 road linking the coast and inland Gran Canaria.